My Name is Christine, I am a 16-year-old student from Germany, currently attending Sanford H. Calhoun High School as part of an exchange program. English isn’t my first language, so I apologize for any mistakes I make.
I will only live in the United States of America for one year, but no matter where I live - if it’s in the US or in Europe, or anywhere else in the world – your decisions and the decisions made by Congress can affect me too.
There are many things that I want to say, many issues that are important and many changes I would like to see, not only in the US but all around the globe. But I will focus only on one of them - an issue that is, in my opinion, something that we need to stop as soon as we can. An issue that will affect not only us, but especially the generations after us.
Climate change is a problem that can change the world as we know it and it will eventually come with much greater problems than the ones we can predict now.
Global surface temperatures are rising and both – global surface temperature and Arctic Sea ice extent, have broken records currently. According to a NASA article each of the first six months of 2016 set records as the warmest respective month globally since 1880, when the record was started.
Five of the first six months of 2016 set a record for the smallest monthly Arctic sea ice extent since 1979 and March, the only month that didn’t set a record for the smallest Arctic ice sea extent, had the second smallest ice extent for that month.
The first half of 2016 was, according to the NASA article, the warmest half year on record. It had an average temperature that was about 2.4°F warmer than in the late nineteenth century and the Arctic sea ice extent at the peak of the summer melt season now covers about 40% less area than in the late 70s and early 80s.
Although the El Niño events affect the temperatures and can drive them to record levels such as in 1998, it is not the only reason for those changes. The NASA has found out that the global temperatures have risen well beyond the temperatures of those from 18 years ago because of the overall warming of the surface of the earth.
An article of National Geographic about global warming solutions said the Earth would still warm by another degree Fahrenheit, even if we would stop emitting greenhouse gases completely. But that doesn’t mean that it’s too late to change something. According to the National Geographic’s article scientists predict that the Earth could either warm by only 2.5°F or by 10°F, depending on the choices we make now.
The same article states that current greenhouse gas concentrations are about 380 ppm and that we would have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% to 80% to reach the commonly cited goal of stabilizing the concentration of greenhouse gases around 450 to 550 ppm.
Global warming and all effects on the earth that come with it are mostly driven by the rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Effects of climate change are not only the globally rising surface temperatures but according to an article on the website of the European Commission also the melting of polar ice shields, the rising sea levels which can cause flooding and erosion of coastal and low lying areas and the warming of the oceans.
Climate change can also cause the extinction of many animals and plants and the bleaching of coral reefs. It makes extreme weather events become more frequent, which can, according to the European Commission, cause floods, a sinking water quality and a decrease in the availability of water resources.
They also mentioned consequences for Europe in the article, which included more frequent heat waves, forest fires and droughts in many areas, as well as other regions becoming significantly wetter and winter floods in many regions. But those consequences don’t only apply to Europe but to many other regions around the world.
There are many things that can be changed and there are many different ways to change them, though some might be more ecologically beneficial and environmentally friendly than others. But one thing should not be denied or ignored anymore and that is the fact that something has to be done.
I think one of the most important things is to raise awareness about climate change and about the great impact it will have on our life as well as on the lives of our descendants, especially within the younger generations. That can be done in many different ways and only one example is to start projects in schools that include anything that helps the environment. It would also help if you would live environmentally friendly and support doing so, to show other people that they have those opportunities.
I know that many people do know about climate change and they say they care, but then they don’t put any effort into changing their behavior, because they know about it but they still haven’t really realized that they can actually change something.
There are many ways for normal citizens to live more environmentally friendly even if they do not have the money to modernize their homes and change all their devices into more economically friendly ones, to isolate their homes better or to install solar panels on their roofs or use alternative technologies to generate their own energy.
It starts with buying and eating less meat, using fabric bags instead of plastic bags, separating the trash, reusing and recycling as much as possible, buying less food instead of throwing anything away, trying to use less electricity and water, not driving by car if it isn’t necessary, trying to use less products made out of plastic if there are alternatives and especially trying not to use products that are made to only use them once. I could go on and on with this list because there are so many things normal citizens can do, many of them are already normal to me because many people do it in Germany, but I know that here they are not normal.
I think the government should not only raise awareness about climate change but it should also take steps to make it easier for people to live in a more economically friendly way, to use public transportation and to buy products that are better for the environment.
Of course every citizen can change something about their lifestyle to help stopping climate change, but the government still has the biggest impact and that is the reason why it’s most important for them and for you to change something.
The government should invest into improving energy efficiency, vehicle fuel economy and biofuels, increasing wind and solar power and other renewable energies instead of using coal-burning power plants and nuclear power plants. The government should also invest into saving, planting and growing forests, so that we do not only decrease the amount of greenhouse gases we emit but also increase the amount of greenhouse gases taken out of the atmosphere by the tree’s photosynthesis.
According to the National Geographic article mentioned before the way we farm and plant can increase the amount of carbon that we we store store and the article also points out that researchers from Princeton University suggested to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from many different sources, rather than relying on an enormous change in one field.
This is just a selection of things that can and should be done and I know it requires much effort and also much money to change things and to stop or reduce climate change but it is an investment that will have an effect throughout decades, centuries, milleniums, an effect that is worth all this and that our descendants will be grateful for.
Thank you you very much for reading this long letter and thank you very much for your your support.